Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Afghanistan, collective trauma, social movements, civil society, ethnicity, Shi’a, Hazara

Major Advisor

Samuel Martinez

Co-Major Advisor

Kathryn Libal

Associate Advisor

Sarah Willen

Associate Advisor

Richard Wilson

Associate Advisor

César Abadía-Barrero

Associate Advisor

Thomas Barfield

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Based on 18 months of fieldwork in Bamyan and West Kabul, Afghanistan among ethnic Hazara civil society activists, I examine civil society groups’ protests and memorialization activities as social and political acts of collective and cultural trauma generation and dissemination. The activists’ protests seek to secure greater rights, security and infrastructural development in Hazara populated areas, and memorialize past rights violations and atrocities against Hazaras. Through protests, literature and social media, the retelling of traumatic events inculcates and spreads collective trauma. And the framing of these past events as a present existential threat merges with a widespread sense that Hazara history and culture have been quietly erased by a Pashtun-dominated Afghan state apparatus. Both the constant recounting of collective traumas and the perception of having been excluded from Afghan history and history-writing confirm a need to write and speak about the Hazara past through frames specific to Hazaras’ victimization., including an ongoing genocide which began over 100 years ago. Hazara activist history-telling also draws on Bamyan’s ancient past, to make a claim to their being Afghanistan’s autochthonous people as well as heirs to cosmopolitan, religiously tolerant and non-violent Buddhist and Silk Road traditions. Yet the ancient past is also depicted as having been traumatic, in that the early ancestors of the Hazaras are held to have suffered under Muslim and Mongol invaders. Affective and symbolic echoes of Shi’a traditions of martyrdom and victimization are also to be found in Hazara protest and memorialization. Layered on top of all this is language appealing to a Western audience, giving emphasis to Hazaras’ purportedly inherent peacefulness and their recent embrace of human rights and genocide recognition. Hazara activists express a Hazara exceptionalism based on the idea that their people are particular to Afghanistan as an autochthonous group mixed with later migrations and different religious groups which thrived on the Silk Road and are hence imbued with a peacefulness and cosmopolitanism others lack. They provide as evidence a mix of written and mythological historical sources.